Shameless self-promotion

August 24, 2011

Jesuit formation, as I wrote in my last post, aims to prepare us to go anywhere, and this August marks a major step forward in that formation for me, as well as a major change in scenery.  I have traded in the skyscrapers of Chicago and the philosophy books of Loyola University for the prairies of south-central South Dakota and parish administration at St. Agnes, St. Bridget, and St. Charles parishes on the Rosebud Reservation.

The Jesuits out here on the prairie don’t often make it into the headlines, but we do work of which the Society can be rightly proud.  So take a moment and check out the work of St. Francis Mission here on the web, and if you happen to be visiting the Badlands or the Black Hills take a somewhat longer moment and a slight detour off of I-90 to learn a bit about Lakota culture and the work of the “Blackrobes” over the past century—and today.

And since, as you can imagine, this transition has taught me just how much I still have to learn about everything from parish finances to Lakota burial traditions to how to polish brass, these weeks have left me with a bit less time for blogging than what I’ve been used to.  Fear not, however, loyal readers of Whosoever Desires, for this latest assignment promises even more stories and observations to share with all of you in the months and years to come.

Read the rest of this entry »

Personal Reflections on World Youth Day: The Papal Pilgrimage

August 23, 2011

Initially upon arriving in Madrid, we were all very tired.  We had driven all day and arrived to find that were would be sleeping in a gymnasium with 700 other pilgrims with no air conditioning.  We went to the park and played soccer for a while with some of the locals, and that raised spirits, though of course we lost.  

Certain spiritual highlights stick out from Madrid.

The second morning there, Fr. Hough said Mass for us in the park nearby.  The Gospel was about Peter walking in the water.  I had only recently meditated on that Gospel passage during my 8-day retreat, but what I noticed this time was the time that Jesus comes walking on the water.  It is during the 4th watch of the night, between 3-6 am, when they are tired and scared and the night is dark and the waves are high.  That is when Jesus comes.  He often comes to us when we are alone and scared, sinful and exhausted.  It is for us to recognize him in his coming and not to see him as a ghost.  If we will see him, then he will heal us. Read the rest of this entry »

Personal Reflections on World Youth Day: The Ignatian Pilgrimage

August 22, 2011

While there are many excellent places
to read about the events of World Youth Day, I would like to share
with you a little my own experiences of the trip from the inside so
to speak.  These past three weeks have been some of the most
spiritually consoling weeks of my life, from my 8-day silent retreat
to this two week pilgrimage. The trip as a whole was unspeakably
consoling, and it is that consolation that I would like to share, so
that you all can partake in the graces that I received.  The two-week
pilgrimage was divided into two parts:  A pilgrimage of Ignatian
sites and then the pilgrimage with the Holy Father.  This first part
of the reflection will focus on the first week Ignatian Pilgrimage.

Read the rest of this entry »

World Youth Day!

August 20, 2011

Hey yáll.  I´ve wanted to write and update you about World Youth Day.  Unfortunately I can´t right now, but here´s a website where you can see pictures of me and follow the pilgrimage to Barcelona, Montserrat, Manresa, and Loyola.  God bless!  I will be praying for you all.

Polish piety

August 10, 2011

In the chapel of the oldest continuously operating Jesuit novitiate in the world, in a sleepy village in southern Poland, the likenesses of great Jesuits of the past gaze from the walls above, their faces turned attentively toward the altar—with one exception.  Francis Xavier is looking out the window.

It’s not irreverence, of course, that has the saint turned the other way.  Xavier, who agreed to leave Europe for the Orient on a day’s notice, was, in addition to being the greatest missionary since Paul, one of history’s great travelers, a man whose desire to plant the seeds of the Gospel where they had never been sown before was extinguished only by death.

There’s something essentially Jesuit in that desire, and hopefully at least a spark of it burns in each one of us.  Our formation, you may recall, aims to prepare us to go anywhere in the world, though usually we’re given a bit more notice than Francis Xavier.  For me, this summer was no exception and saw me spending July in Krakow teaching English to Jesuit scholastics from Poland, Croatia, and Russia.

It was heartening to meet and live with such good brothers, and equally heartening to be immersed in Polish culture.  The Poles are a wonderful people—noble, warm, and very, very Catholic.  I realize that this is a bit of a generalization and that one should be careful conflating religious and ethnic identity.  (And in fact, at an academic conference I attended earlier in the summer I met a number of young and quite impressive Catholic scholars from such bastions of secularism as Belgium and France.)  What makes Poland special, however, is the degree to which Catholicism has penetrated the culture, the ways in which the faith is palpable in all aspects of Polish life.  The Poles are unabashedly pious.

Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the Feast of St. Ignatius

August 1, 2011


A day late and, almost certainly, a dollar short.  I was traveling too much to post this yesterday, and Ignatius’ complex holiness doesn’t often lend itself to pithy formulas.  Since this was preached to the Carmelite Monastery of Brooklyn, NY, the Scripture Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time were used and the Little Flower got a shout-out.

What will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:35)

We have a strange convergence of events here today.  That a Jesuit priest would celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on the feast of St. Ignatius isn’t uncommon, but that he would end up doing so for a Carmelite Convent is a little more unusual.  At bottom, however, there is only one holiness in the Church—the holiness of Christ.  So I’ll trust that St. Ignatius can edify Carmelites as well.

As evidence of the Church’s one holiness, we could point to the perfect agreement between St. Ignatius’s spiritual vision and the vision that St. Paul presents today in the letter to the Romans.  In both cases, the mark of holiness is twofold: 1) a preferential love for the Cross 2) measured by the greater service of God. Read the rest of this entry »

J.F. Powers: Catholic literature’s forgotten gem

August 1, 2011

Over the last Christmas break I had lunch with my old high school English teacher, Mr. Studer.  (Mr. Studer has a first name, but it still feels impious to use it.)  More than anyone else, Mr. Studer is responsible for getting me interested in writing.

At the end of our lunch, Mr. Studer gave me a small stack of books by J.F. Powers, a collection of short stories and two novels.  The pages of the books were brown with time, and one, Morte D’Urban, was held together with a rubber band.

I had read an odd J.F. Powers short story here or there before, and my last pre-Jesuit job was at St. John’s University in Minnesota, where Powers spent most of his career.  Powers wrote only two novels, Morte D’Urban and Wheat That Springeth Green, in addition to several collections of short stories—an understated literary output that in some ways seems appropriate.

Powers is a master craftsman; in terms of tightly constructed prose—taut, subtle, perfectly pitched—he surpasses even Flannery O’Connor, though his subtlety and understatement mean that his work never packs quite the same explosive punch as O’Connor’s.  Powers’ subject matter is the Catholic Church of the Midwest in the middle of the twentieth century, and his mastery of his material is flawless.  He seems especially fascinated by priests—and by all the petty ambitions, joys, politics, and frustrations that occur within the walls of a rectory.

Read the rest of this entry »